All of that being said, exhibits are still a vitally important part of any museum’s function. They need to be engaging and entertaining, which is significantly more difficult today than it was thirty years ago. Budgets for everyone are also stretched to the limit…ours would actually squeak if it was squeezed any tighter! A museum also has to know its visitors and its community and pick exhibition topics which will cause people to want to come visit. But most importantly, a good exhibit cannot be created without good, old fashioned research. After all, if an exhibit is not accurate are you really fulfilling your mission to educate the public on its past?
For the past month, the staff at the Coronado Quivira Museum has been working diligently on research for our Essential Elements exhibit this fall. This exhibit is on a much larger scale than anything that has been done here for twenty years or more, and for our small staff it has represented a significant challenge. Small staff sizes and a lack of fabrication space/tools/materials is the main reason we hired an outside exhibit design firm to do the design and construction work, but that does not mean it is clear sailing for us. We need to provide the artifacts, photographs, research, interpretive themes, text and label copy (bilingual in English and Spanish, which is also new to the Museum) and work with others to ensure the exhibit is as accurate as possible while being fun and entertaining as well.
So far our main difficulty has come from something that is common to any historical researcher…lack of clarity in the original source materials. For instance, after a month’s worth of research we can tell you how the first salt mining shaft was sunk in Rice County, when that happened and the names of the people involved. But we cannot tell you which of the two major mines in Rice County this was! Newspaper articles are unclear, city ordinances (which were drafted and discarded with wild abandon in those days) are less than helpful with regard to location and after several different corporate purchases the mines themselves no longer possess this information. However, our Research Assistant is close to a breakthrough in this arena, and other questions will soon be answered. And in the meantime, text and label copy are being developed in the areas where enough clarity exists to move forward.
Further updates coming soon!